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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
periodical cicada
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Periodical Cicadas

Posted by John Fulton -

Even though Logan County is not in the heart of the territory of the Periodical 13 year cicada, there may be spots experiencing the problem. Most of Sangamon County is in the expected zone, while the Chestnut and Latham areas of Logan County are the only areas indicated on a map for possible emergence. There are two types of cicadas. The first is the "dogday" cicada, which occurs in the heat of summer each year. The second is the periodical type that hatches in late May, based on soil temperatures, every 13 or 17 years. The 13 (Brood XIX) year brood is up this year, and numbers may be impressive in some areas. They have already created stirrings to the south and east. Prime areas would be heavily wooded for a period of many years. Numbers can average over 130,000 per acre.

The adult cicada is about an inch and a half long, dark in color, and has red or orange eyes. The female uses an ovipositor, like a saw, to make slits made in small twigs of trees. She then lays eggs in the slit. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground. They then tunnel in the ground where they find a tree root to suck sap from for 13 or 17 years. The root feeding activities are not the most damaging, but the egg laying slits can cause severe damage to young trees.

Young transplants up to two and a half inches in diameter can have their main trunk damaged to the point it will snap. On mature trees, there is little danger of the tree dieing from the damage, but many branch ends will break off in wind storms. The favored twig or trunk sizes are 3/16 of an inch to an inch and a half.

To protect young trees, or valuable small trees, a mechanical barrier is the most effective. Something like screen wire wrapped around the trunk will prevent damage. Insecticides will also kill many of the cicadas, but it only takes one female to do the damage. Sevin, permethrin or bifenthrin should show some effectiveness.

The other phenomenon that will occur is traditional predator numbers, such as cicada killer wasp numbers, will also greatly increase. These are extremely large wasps that paralyze the cicada, bury it in the ground, and lay eggs in it. The insecticides mentioned previously will also be effective against the wasps. Remember though, the wasps are actually beneficial. Control should only be done in very high traffic areas and children's play areas when the wasps become a hazard.

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